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ELO 2015: The End(s) of Electronic Literature

Interaction Between Art and Literature in Arab Digital Poetry and the Issue of Criticism

Eman Younis (Beit Berl College)

Panel: Global Electronic Literature and Historical Memory
Thursday, August 6 • 09:00 - 10:30 (Sydneshaugen skole: Auditorium B)

This paper aims to reveal the interaction between art and literature in Arab interactive digital poetry, and the issue of criticism.

Most of Arab and foreign critics that study digital literature agree that interactive poetry goes far beyond the concept of Archigtext to an even broader concept than that of Archigenre, as this genre can be said to be Archiarts. Then, digital poems can be said to mean open texts that include all artistic and literary genres.

This literary genre indeed puts the identity of the work to test, as every interactive work cannot be considered to be literature. And what makes a work a literary one is basically the word, provided that it preserves the essential features and distinguishes the literary genres from others, whether a novel, a poem or a play. Regarding the use of technology, its role should be confined to the enrichment of the written texts and to making them more dynamic. Not only that, but technology should never be just an external design for the text like in the case of some poets who have excessively used technology and have arbitrarily integrated their works with other artistic genres without any significant benefit. Therefore, their texts seemed to be neither entirely artistic nor entirely literary.

In the book of The Artistic Literary Interaction in Digital Poetry, my colleague Aidah Naserah and I investigate the relationship between poetry and art through the poem of “Shajr Alboughaz” (“The Trees of Inlet”) by the Moroccan poet Mon’em Alazraq. This poem has been written and published in 2008 as an ordinary printed poem. Then, it has been reproduced to be an interactive digital poem. Therefore, we notice the poet’s ability of opening the poem to many artistic levels: he employed colors and movements and also played with font face and size. He also inserted artistic paintings for the world’s greatest artists such as Paul Delaroche and others preserving the linguistic work. These elements have then been combined into a harmonious soft mosaic painting that holds the poem to other banks and adds new meanings to it. This ends up further supporting its expressive potential and also increases its influence on the receiver, leading to what became known as “digital rhetoric”. This qualitative intersection is what has been set up and what we envisage in digital texts.

Digital literary works being opened to all other types of art need a special artistic taste and need a different critic as well. As the digital work is complex and forked, and includes various items, it becomes necessary for the critic to have both the experience and the education in order to understand the poem with all of its levels, and to reveal the semiotic relationships between them to grasp the significance of the text at the end. In other words, hypertexts need a hypercritic. But the question is: where is that critic? Can we claim that there is a critic who is able to decode the digital text? Is there a critic who owns the equipment of both artistic and literary critic? Or maybe it needs more than one critic to deal with.

In fact, all the attempts in Arabic criticism were individual efforts through which a critic intended to analyze all the artistic levels of the interactive work with what they have of education. Not only that, but it is also not easy to qualify a critic who is able to break the system of the digital text at all levels. This responsibility hence lies with the educational institutions like colleges and schools, institutions that are constantly challenged to foster a new generation able to taste, criticize and analyze the digital work, and able to produce and receive such works alongside preserving the balance between literary talent and technical creativity.

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